Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
In the early fifth century c.e., when Christianity was not only legally recognized but also the preferred religion for advancement in social and political circles in the Roman Empire, many people with only the most rudimentary knowledge of Christianity flooded into the Church. Although monasticism had long been practiced by Christians in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, the practice had not spread to Christians in southern France where John Cassian spent the last decades of his life. Devoting oneself full-time to the practice of monastic Christianity was a new idea in the Western Roman Empire. Cassian’s monastic writings, De institutis coenobiorum (419-426 c.e.; The Institutes of the Coenobia, 1894) and Conferences, are among the earliest writings in Latin to explain what monasticism is, what the purpose and motivation for a monastic life are, and how to organize a community centered on monastic practices.
Cassian had spent a number of years visiting and studying the lifestyles of the Egyptian Desert Fathers, each of whom struggled in his own way to find a path to God. He was convinced that such idiosyncratic patterns of fasting, harsh physical asceticism, and prayer would not help establish monasticism in southern France. What was needed was general guidance to gain the proper understanding of the monastic life as an example of living out the Christian faith. Day-to-day...
(The entire section is 992 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Conferences Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!